Campos de Esperanza (Fields of Hope)
Campos de Esperanza (Fields of Hope) engages the government, the private sector, and civil society to reduce child labor in migrant agricultural communities, particularly in the coffee and sugarcane sectors in Veracruz and Oaxaca. The project links children and youth to existing educational programs and refers vulnerable households to existing government programs to improve income and reduce the need for child labor. Campos de Esperanza also works to strengthen the Mexican government’s capacity to prevent and manage Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown causes and improve working conditions based on regional and international best practices in partnership with the private sector and community-based groups.
Approximately 773,000 children work in the production of agricultural goods in Mexico, many of whom are migrant laborers from indigenous communities. Children travel with their families across the country following agricultural harvest cycles, in some cases returning to their communities of origin only after long periods of absence. Existing labor law is inconsistently applied to these child laborers and infrequently protects them. Migrant children are more likely than non-migrant children to engage in agricultural work that involves long working hours, use of sharp tools, extreme temperatures, handling pesticides, and carrying heavy loads. And a significant percentage of children working in agriculture do not attend school, due in part to poor school infrastructure, long distances to reach schools, and limited educational opportunities to meet their needs, including a lack of indigenous language instruction. This situation contributes to a vicious circle that limits opportunity across generations.
ILAB has supported efforts in Mexico to combat child labor in agriculture since 2009. Campos de Esperanza builds off this experience to provide education and protection to migrant families and their children engaged in hazardous and exploitive labor. In the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, where sugar and coffee are produced, Campos de Esperanza targets children, youth, and households from migrant agricultural communities engaged in or at high risk of engaging in child labor in these sectors. In the states of Chihuahua, Baja California, Jalisco, and Sinaloa, the project works with the private sector to replicate promising practices to address labor violations in the horticulture sector.
To foster positive change for these children and their families, the project incorporates different actors such as government agencies, schools, and employers so that children can leave the field to pursue their education, including through bilingual education. The project also works with the government to utilize high quality and improved tools to monitor and enforce laws related to child labor and agricultural work. It also collaborates with participating business partners to increase their capacity to reduce child labor, refer families to government social programs, and remediate unacceptable conditions of work in their workplaces and supply chains.
The project’s approach also involves raising awareness to change families’ frequently held beliefs that child labor is either necessary or beneficial and to make them aware of their rights under the law. The project refers families to viable education alternatives for their children. It strives to reduce demand for child labor among its chief users, small private landowners, and communal landowners who supply larger companies.
- The project has worked closely with the sugarcane sector to develop protocols on responsible recruitment and to improve working conditions. The project has reached over 5,300 sugarcane cutters and has trained over 545 sugar mill employees on COVID-19 prevention in the fields and mills.
- With the project’s support, over 2,400 sugar cane workers have been vaccinated against influenza and measles in Oaxaca and Veracruz.
- The project trained 130 labor inspectors in child labor, labor rights, and occupational safety and health.
- Over 1,400 children in or at risk of child labor have received education services.
- Through project-supported training, over 399 teachers have gained skills in recognizing child labor and supporting social-emotional development. These teachers add an additional layer of support for children engaged in or at risk of child labor.
- The project supported audiobooks that enabled 900 children to continue learning remotely during the pandemic.
- The project established 27 community libraries that have provided access to learning and recreational activities to children in these agricultural communities.